With The Reformed Collective On Reformed Piety

Piety. It is a short but it is a very important word in the Reformed tradition. It is Latin word, pietas, which, in classical usage referred to one’s duty toward the gods and toward one’s parents. In traditional Christian usage it has had a similar sense: how we relate to God. The adjective “pious” was often used in classical Reformed theology to denote “believing” and “godly.” In the Canons of Dort (1.17) “pious parents” (pii parentes) are exhorted not to doubt the election and salvation of their covenant children who die in infancy. Calvin often (more than 100 times in the 1559 Institutes alone) used it to refer to what is sometimes called today “heart religion,” which, I hasten to add, he never divorced from the intellect nor from practice. Hence the subtitle of Recovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice. The neo-Pentecostal and revivalist paradigms are so influential in American evangelical Christianity that they become the default baseline for theology, piety, and practice. It seems to be assumed widely among Young, Restless, and Augustinian evangelicals that it is possible to sew revivalist and even neo-Pentecostal (or Charismatic) piety onto aspects of Reformed theology. Not so.

In this interview, the guys from the Reformed Collective and I sat down to discuss the nature of Reformed piety and what distinguishes it from the Anabaptists (1520s), American revivalism (18th and 19th centuries), and the neo-Pentecostal (and Charismatic) approaches to piety.

Here’s the interview.


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  1. Hello Dr. Clark,

    You mentioned briefly that there were some issues with the use of Francis Turretin as the standard theological text at Princeton in the Warfield/Hodge era. Can you elaborate on what the concern with Turretin is?

    • Hi Philip,

      Turretin’s Institutes were not intended to be a complete, standard systematic theology. There are topics that he did not cover or at least not thoroughly because he was writing a corrective (elenctic) theology. His agenda was largely determined by errors he sought to oppose (Socinianism, Arminianism, Romanism, Amyraldianism).

      A system ordinarily would begin with Scripture and proceed from there to cover everything, driven by its own internal principles.

      The Institutes are wonderful but their use probably contributed to a diminished sense of the importance of the church and sacraments in Reformed theology. Today, 140 years after Hodge’s system replaced Turretin, we may be feeling the consequences.

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